Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.

Pluto’s mountains are white-capped but with methane not ice

Pluto's white-capped mountains
Pluto’s mountains, capped with methane snow.
Click for full figure.

Scientists now theorize that the white-capped mountains first photographed by New Horizons during its 2015 fly-by of Pluto are capped not with ice but with methane snow, as part of that planet’s methane gas-ice cycle.

The image to the right, from their paper, shows these white-capped mountains on Pluto.

The exact composition of this frost on Pluto was unclear. While researchers identified methane, it was unknown whether it is pure frozen methane, frozen methane diluted with frozen nitrogen or a mix of both. The uncertainty about the frost’s composition made it unclear how it might have formed.

To help solve these mysteries, scientists in this new study examined high-resolution data from New Horizons, focusing on the composition of the frost at high altitudes. This new analysis revealed that the snowcap frost “is almost pure methane ice, with traces of nitrogen ice,” Bertrand said.

The researchers also developed high-resolution computer simulations of Pluto’s climate. They focused on how methane circulates around the dwarf planet. [emphasis mine]

Though their simulations of the methane cycle that produces the caps are reasonable, I purposely highlight the fact that this is what they are, and as such must be treated with great skepticism. We might now know the composition of these snowcaps, but our overall knowledge of Pluto remains to limited to trust blindly any computer model.


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  • Phill O

    “trust blindly any computer model.” Your skepticism is well founded by other climate model’s problems.

  • Max

    Heat is created by atmospheric pressure, the more atmosphere, the more heat is generated by friction.

    Snow in the mountains is it good indication that Pluto has atmosphere of some kind that keeps the lower altitude slightly warmer than the higher altitude. Very interesting.

    Just guessing… Pluto is too small for gravity to hold anything but large heavy molecules?
    But then again, maybe it has something to do with the moon chevron causing internal heat from tidel movement.

    We need closer pictures and perhaps a probe landing on the surface to get better detail. Can you imagine giant glaciers of methane flowing downhill?

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